Learning Astrophotography

Bodie Island Lighthouse at night with part of the Milky Way in the background.
Bodie Island Lighthouse at night

As a lifelong learner, the best, most fulfilling days are the ones when I learn something new. There’s nothing as thrilling as the feeling you get from learning a new fact, making a discovery, or having an “Aha!” moment.

I recently had the chance to be part of a magical learning experience as a participant in an Our State Magazine Photography workshop in the Outer Banks, led by two phenomenally talented photographers Tommy White and Mark VanDyke, where I tried astrophotography for the first time.

Astrophotography involves photographing the stars and other areas of the night sky and requires a lot of fumbling around in complete darkness with tripods and complicated camera settings.

Our group of sixteen participants and two highly talented instructors made the midnight trek from our hotel to Bodie Island Lighthouse, where we stood amidst the mosquitoes to try the long-exposure techniques involved in astrophotography. Our guides had prepped us with the best settings to use on our cameras, and we partnered up in the dark to see what we could capture.

One of my partners was Emma, a young woman in her early twenties who was new to photography. Even though Emma had minimal experience behind the camera, she had an enthusiasm and a willingness to jump in and experiment that helped me get over being intimidated. It was Emma who encouraged me to plant my tripod finally, take a couple of test shots, and who ended up helping me figure out what I was missing in those first few attempts to get a good shot.

The setting, the experience of the instructors, Emma’s eager approach, and my willingness to set aside my fears all combined to help me create an image that exceeded my expectations for a first attempt.

What have been some of your most magical learning experiences? What conditions helped create your Aha moment?

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